Updated from previous story. There was a lack of a quorum at the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) on Wednesday, April 24.
That meant voters in attendance could only discuss the proposed 2013-14 school, town, and capital budgets, and could not vote on possible reductions.
The new town charter states that 2% of qualified voters must be present at the ATBM in order for any portion of the budget to be reduced. This year, that meant a minimum of 136 voters were needed for a quorum.
According to Registrar Laura Smits, there were 85 voters present when the meeting started at 8 p.m., less than the 136 voters needed for a quorum, so the budgets could not be reduced.
The new town charter also prohibits the budgets from being increased by the ATBM.
The lack of a quorum caused some confusion about how to proceed with the ATBM. It also put a damper on the meeting when voters realized there would be discussion only on the budget, and the numbers were fixed as presented by the finance board and could not be changed.
Right out of the box, there were questions about procedure and how the meeting would proceed without a quorum. Resident Ruth Glazer asked Woody Bliss, who was acting as moderator, to confirm that the quorum had not been met and therefore no changes could be proposed to the budgets.
Mr. Bliss initially stated that the quorum had not been met and the budgets could not be changed. However, he appeared to change his mind after discussing the issue with Ms. Smits, so Ms. Glazer asked again what would happen if 136 voters eventually arrived.
Mr. Bliss offhandedly said he would deal with that if it occurred. Ms. Glazer was not satisfied with that response and asked if the quorum had been met or hadn’t been met.
First Selectman Gayle Weinstein interjected that town counsel Pat Sullivan, who was unavailable to attend the meeting, had advised that the quorum was based on the number of people present at the start of the meeting at 8 p.m. Since there were only 85 people at 8, the quorum had not been met.
Even if more voters trickled in and eventually there were 136 people in attendance, Ms. Weinstein said it didn’t matter, because the quorum number was fixed in time as of 8 p.m.
Straggling voters did arrive throughout the meeting. Ms. Smits said eventually 103 voters were in attendance.
There was limited discussion about the budget. A question was asked about a $62,000 expenditure in the capital budget listed as “Middle School Door,” singular. Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer explained that the $62,000 was not for one door but for all the doors to be replaced in the middle school.
The ATBM approved by voice vote the budgets to send to referendum:
School operating budget: $45,575,418. ($11,774, or 0.03%, less than the current year’s budget)
Town operating budget: $11,713,441. ($398,839, or 3.52%, more than the current year)
Capital budget: $1,116,228.
Debt service in the amount of $6,554,632 was approved at the ATBM and does not go to referendum.
If all portions of the budgets pass as proposed, the expected mill rate will be 23.89, a 0.54% decrease from this year’s rate of 24.02.
Immediately after the ATBM, for the first time, as per the new charter, voters had the opportunity to cast ballots on the budget at a referendum in the high school library.
Ms. Smits said 82 voters cast their ballots Wednesday night.
Those who did not vote on Wednesday were able to do so by absentee ballot this past week, and at a second machine vote Thursday, May 2, at the Weston Middle School gym, from noon to 8.